From a young age, all parents required a bed time for us. At that point when all you wanted to do was stay up and watch your favorite TV show it seemed like the worst words you could ever hear. Now that I have gotten older, I cannot thank them enough for those early nights tucked under the blanket! Benjamin Franklin once said, "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise". I mean, if the man on the back of a one-hundred dollar bill, the founder of library, postal system, electricity, and last but not least, one of the founding fathers of our country had all the time to do that and more, I think we should take his advice when it comes to sleeping habits. Even dating thousands of years back, our ancestors relied on the sun as their alarm clock by rising for sunrise and being asleep just after sunset. They realized the importance of a quality night sleep in order to keep them rejuvenated for the demands of the day.
The modern world has developed in so many amazing ways. Although, one area we have gone the wrong direction in is our sleeping patterns. We are constantly being stimulated by technology like our cell phones, television, and Netflix. From the moment we get up until the moment we are getting back in to bed it seems like a screen is always near our eyes. So how are we suppose to be able to fall asleep when we are constantly thinking about all the thoughts and occurrences in each day? This may be why a third of the US population reports to not getting enough sleep (1). But what if I told you that a healthy and consistent sleep schedule could be one of the greatest impacts you will ever be able to notice? The importance of sleep for health cannot be underestimated, and may be a major reason behind potential food cravings and lifestyle choices. Your overall health is a domino effect to all areas of your life, including your sleep habits, to energize your life.
Many may not be aware that the clock on the wall is not the only time table we follow. Your body operates on what is called a circadian rhythm. This is a physiologic clock our entire body follows including our digestive system, metabolism, and nervous system in a synchronous manner throughout the day. It knows our eating patterns, sleeping patterns, and physical activity patterns while being able to adjust to these conditions. Late night eating and snacking, especially high carbohydrate meals, may have an effect on this rhythm and lead to a gain in body fat. This is because your body is now metabolizing this meal when sleeping, rather than burning body fat for energy homeostasis (2). The spike in blood glucose levels may also lead to trouble falling or staying asleep throughout the night.
Physical activity and fitness have become a staple of many people's everyday lives. It is a great way to stay healthy, improve weight management, and improve overall quality of life. Although, did you know how it can positively impact your sleep quality? Research studies have linked moderate-high intensity physical activity to improved insomnia levels over a 6 month period (3). Rather than being sedentary all day, putting your body through some healthy physical stress can help with relaxation and sleepiness when the nighttime comes. We see how physical activity can have an affect on sleep, but there is also a relationship between the two in the other direction. A study showing the risk of injury for adolescent athletes increased by almost double in those who slept less than eight hours per night compared to those who slept eight or more hours per night (4). Sleep is one of the greatest recovery methods that we seem to never think of!
Physical benefits are not the only byproduct of a quality night sleep. For those interested in improving their cognitive function, high quality sleep on a consistent schedule may be your answer. REM sleep (deep sleep) has been correlated to improved cognitive motor performance, learning ability, and memory enhancement in clinical trials (5). It is not always quantity of sleep, but rather quality of the sleep that matters. In the same trials, those who did not enter a deep sleep for an extensive period showed weakened cognitive function. Therefore, a "good night sleep" has a deeper meaning than just the amount of time we are asleep in bed in order to function and perform at our best during the day.
With all of this information you may be thinking... "What can I do to have a better night of sleep?"
Some of my favorite remedies to promote quality sleep:
Limit caffeine intake after 2 PM
Everyone loves their coffee to keep them energized and productive during the day. Although, it is best to avoid caffeine intake after 2 PM in order to limit the jitters and restlessness that may come about at night if we are still consuming caffeine later in the afternoon. I know you're probably thinking, "but Melissa, I can have coffee at 10pm and still fall asleep just fine". It doesn't matter if you can fall asleep, if you have caffeine too close to bed time it will still impact your body and hinder the quality of that sleep.. so you may not even feel fully rested or getting the rest your body and mind actually need.
Consume Foods High in Magnesium
Magnesium is a nutrient that many of us are deficient in. It aids the body in relaxing and can lead to better sleep quality. Consider consuming foods higher in magnesium such as nuts, seeds, and leafy green vegetables.
Tart Cherry Juice
This super-drink has become extremely popular over the years due to it's benefits as an anti-inflammatory and recovery aide. Tart cherry juice may also help aid with sleep due to its high levels of tryptophan and melatonin (6). These are both required by the body to have quality sleep.
Similar to tart cherry juice, beet juice is known for its abilities to aid in inflammation and recovery due to its levels of nitric oxide, which are a vasodilator. RESYNC has an amazing supplement called RESYNC Recovery Blend with added beet juice for recovery. Use Promo Code 'MELISSACONOVER' to receive $5 off your order + free shipping if you purchase 2 or more of their products. (https://resyncproducts.com/products/resync-tub)
Daily Physical Activity
You do not need to be a triathlete to reap the benefits of physical activity. Partaking in physical activity for just 30 minutes daily can have a positive affect on stress levels and restfulness.
Many people may be intimidated by the idea of mediation thinking you need to find a cave to crawl into for years to find enlightenment. It can be much less serious than this however. Many times the biggest problem with our sleep is carrying our thoughts and problems from the day into bed with us. Taking deep breathes while meditating before bed can help to calm the mind and relax in order to sleep better.
These changes don't need to be an all or nothing approach! Start with one simple habit change that can improve your sleep, which then can improve your recovery, help your metabolism, improve mood, and be that positive domino effect to energize your life.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, April 15). CDC - Sleep Home Page - sleep and sleep disorders. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved April 11, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html
Shapiro, M. (2021, October 28). Research snapshot: Eat Breakfast and stop late-night snacking. Vanderbilt University. Retrieved April 11, 2022, from https://news.vanderbilt.edu/2021/10/28/research-snapshot-eat-breakfast-and-stop-late-night-snacking/
Hartescu, I., M., K., & Stevinson, C. D. (2015). Increased physical activity improves sleep and mood outcomes in inactive people with insomnia: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of sleep research, 24(5), 526–534. https://doi.org/10.1111/jsr.12297
Milewski MD, Skaggs DL, Bishop GA, et al. Chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased sports injuries in adolescent athletes. Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics. 2014 Mar;34(2):129-133. DOI: 10.1097/bpo.0000000000000151. PMID: 25028798.
Walker, M. (n.d.). Cognitive consequences of sleep and sleep loss. Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory, Department of Psychology, Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Retrieved April 11, 2022, from https://www.itdoes.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cognitive-consequences-fo-sleep-and-sleep-loss-by-Matthew-P-Walker-2008-in-sleep-medicine..pdf
Does tart cherry juice promote better sleep? Sleep Foundation. (2022, March 11). Retrieved April 11, 2022, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/nutrition/tart-cherry-juice